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A unique ecosystem

How life science and healthcare clusters are driving innovation


Innovation is a key driver for economic growth in the 21st century. It is an open process, which requires the free flow of ideas, co-operation and collaboration of various players. In today’s globalised world, clusters can provide a great opportunity, bringing together producers, service providers, educational and research institutions and other market players in all areas, including the biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical devices industries.

Medicen Paris Region is a competitiveness cluster at the heart of Europe, one of Europe’s largest clusters in life science and healthcare. It was founded in 2005 and currently provides a home to more than 300 members, primarily SMEs. The five strategic focus areas for the cluster are in vitro diagnostics, diagnostic and interventional imaging, regenerative medicine and biomaterials, ICT and healthcare, and translational medicine.

The Ile-de-France region is one of the leading economic and scientific regions in Europe in the field of life science and healthcare, bringing together academic and clinical research, a unique hospital network (the AP-HP is the largest in Europe), major pharmaceutical and imaging companies, innovative SMEs, CROs and higher education organisations.

With 50% of French biotech companies headquartered there, Ile de France ranks first, ahead of the Greater London region, in terms of number of companies in the pharmaceutical sector. It is also the second region in Europe for medical devices, after Bavaria.

Ile-de-France is also the first French region for clinical trials, with France ranking second in Europe behind Scandinavia, in terms of numbers of recruited patients compared to its population. With 39 hospitals and 24,000 beds, the AP-HP is the leading institutional sponsor of clinical trials in France (source: ANSM) and 90 per cent of French CROs are located in Ile-de-France, including the world’s top ten companies.

Ile de France is also third in terms of biotechnology companies (nearly 150) after the Greater London region and Berlin-Brandenburg. It hosts more than 40% of French academic research units.

As a cluster, the aim is to create and nurture a unique ecosystem that can enable member companies to flourish and grow. Bespoke services offered to small and medium-sized companies include a range of integrated services and development tools: funding support, business and international development support, partner sourcing, technology watch, economic intelligence and much more.

As investment is crucial for residents, the cluster has developed its own ‘Innovative Enterprise’ accreditation programme that, since 2011, has enabled more than 17 companies to engage with potential investors.

Since the cluster was established in 2005, firms have attracted €940m in total investment, including €430m in public funding. This enabled the launch of 27 innovative healthcare products. Examples include IRIMI, next-generation medical imaging services for hospitals; OsseoMatrix, a custom bone implant via direct 3D printing; and Biomodex, imaging solutions to support surgeons’ activities.

Successful innovation cannot exist without international collaboration and co-operation. Medicen Paris Region therefore puts strong emphasis on international events and high-level cross-border opportunities for its residents.

For Medicen, it is important to have strong ties to other innovative regions in the world. In 2017, Medicen strengthened its ties with the Medteq cluster and Greater Montreal ecosystem in Canada, and as a partner, launched the second Soft Landing Boston programme that enabled upcoming French medtech and eHealth companies to launch their products on the North American market.

In March, Medicen Paris Region hosted the first ever France-India Healthcare Summit and in May, seven start-ups from the cluster attended a one-week French Tech Tour Healthcare immersion workshop in Israel.

For Medicen, it is also very important to focus on its key strategic areas and provide access and platforms for showcasing the latest research results in the field of life science.

One way for a cluster like Medicen Paris Region to keep up-to-date with the latest research developments is to connect experts and leaders from their own fields in order to facilitate the exchange of knowledge. This means that Medicen’s calendar is filled with regular dedicated events, focusing on one or two particular areas.

One of the most recent examples was REGMED Europe, which took place in July this year. Over 150 professionals from Europe and Canada attended the event, which brought together eight clusters with special focus on regenerative medicine - one of the focus areas of Medicen. Regenerative medicine aims to repair injuries or diseased organs using biomaterials, gene therapy, cell therapy and tissue engineering. It has an almost unlimited growth potential. The global market for regenerative medicine is estimated to reach $38.70 billion by 2021.

As the cluster also acts as a facilitator for business partnerships, part of the event was a dedicated networking session, aimed at encouraging the over 250 attendees to exchange ideas.

Shortly afterwards, further emerging fields were highlighted when Medicen and BioWin, a Belgium-based cluster, offered joint programmes to their members, with a special focus on two expanding markets: medical imaging and digital health. By 2021, the global medical imaging market is expected to be worth over $36bn (€30.2bn), while the digital health sector is set to reach $308bn (€258.5bn) by 2022. Start-ups from either cluster could attend B2B meetings and presentations by key opinion leaders with the objective of forging strategic partnerships, which can be crucial for a start-up in reaching the next stage.

Medicen has seen very positive results in 2016, with 20% business growth and the arrival of 80 new members, including mid-size pharma company Pierre Fabre. It also experienced a two-fold increase in regional and European funding. This year it is on the same track, with Medicen receiving close to €1m from the European Regional Development Fund to help foster the development of its members. This new three-year financing plan will help set up programmes for SMEs in the healthcare industry. The cluster’s main focus is to foster growth, open financing opportunities and help with the international expansion of its members.

The cluster sharply increased its level of activity in 2017. Investment in measures for business development is set to grow by 35% compared with 2016. This year the cluster focused on specific initiatives to promote employment, training and human resources, with a three-fold budget increase to meet members’ demands.

Innovation will be key to the future success of all economies. Clusters will play a paramount role in expediting promising start-ups through tailored services and bespoke support. They not only provide a space for a variety of companies to operate as part of an ecosystem, clusters also offer invaluable support through access to investors, advice and platforms to learn and grow.

In 2018, Medicen will continue its international dynamics with a long-term perspective towards the main ecosystems it already addresses: the US, Canada, Europe, Israel and Japan. Reciprocity of actions is a key element for Medicen’s international strategy, with at least two major events coming to the Paris Region next year: in March, MEDXPERIENCE (organised together with the Ile-de-France Region and Sanofi) will address digital health, including imaging, e-health, new therapies, diagnostics as well as talent recruitment, while the second edition of the France-Quebec innovation summit on life science will take place in May. Besides European activities coordinated by Medicen, new targeted ecosystems will include Singapore and the Toronto area, primarily through bilateral collaborations.

Article by
Christian Lajoux

is president of French business cluster Medicen Paris Region

20th December 2017

From: Research



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